Philip’s article was first published on ej a year ago; it’s getting a dust-off and celebrating it’s 1st birthday with a repost…
You’re on a spiritual path, and you try to have compassion for all beings. But you draw the line at a**holes, right? It’s as if you say, “I can love all these people, but not this a**hole; this is where I draw the line!” A**holes show you the limit of your ability to love.
People have a lot of faults. You can put up with most of them. But a**holes are the ones who have faults you find personally offensive. Whatever it is about them, a**holes show you what you have subconsciously declared “unforgivable.” And this line in the sand is a key to your own awakening.
Run away! Run away!
We go through the world… and it goes through us too. Everything is fine — then we see an a**hole, and he sticks! You’re in the supermarket, passing by aisle four and, out of the corner of your eye you recognize a person you really don’t like, a real horse’s ass. Maybe this person has done something to you that you find reprehensible, or maybe you just don’t like them, for whatever reason. You think, “Oh, I hate that dickhead! I hope he didn’t see me!” You pick up the pace and plan a safe escape. With growing urgency, you hope you don’t run into him and have to talk to him!
Now, the world no is no longer going through you cleanly. One minute you’re in the supermarket, shopping calmly, and the next you’re in a desperate state, trying to avoid this turkey. Everything was fine until this SOB showed up. Now you’re having a private, internal crisis.
Welcome to the frontier of your own spiritual growth. Right here in the friggin’ supermarket. It’s an unexplored frontier, and it’s a little scary. In this case it’s so scary you are running from it. Sneaking down aisle six in the opposite direction of the a**hole, you are physically running from it!
Two things can happen, at this point. You can experience a major clearing in your spiritual growth, or have another lesson in how to make your own pain. The critical inflection is whether you blame the a**hole for this disturbance or whether you look within yourself for its cause.
Since we’re well schooled in how to create pain, let’s focus on the other choice. You may say, “Well, it’s definitely the a**hole. I was fine until I saw him!” In order to go forward, just assume you’re wrong in this assumption.
Consider what you are really reacting to when you see an a**hole. Consider the possibility that the a**hole might be triggering something hidden and unresolved within you. If that’s true, then the a**hole is not out there; he’s buried alive within you! The a**hole is showing you what you have deemed “unforgivable.”
We’re insane meaning makers
Try this out: The world you see has no inherent meaning in itself. It is meaningless.
And our whole life is about trying to give it our own “personalized” meaning. Relationships, events, circumstances. Think about it. Don’t we try to “personalize” all these things so that they make sense in our personal story? Our whole life is about justifying ourselves. We keep assigning meaning to everything that bothers us so that we make sense. We explain it to others so they might understand us. We are insane meaning makers. We desperately make meaning out of nothing so our story still makes sense. We hope we’ll feel okay and that others will understand us.
A**holes show you what you’ve hidden
If we come across things that we cannot safely fit into our story, well, those are the things that are unforgivable in ourselves. Those things must be kept hidden! Those things must be kept out of our story! Those things must be buried! Secretly, we think: “No one can see these things about me! No one—including me—would buy my story if they knew these things about me.”
The catch? These buried unforgivable parts of yourself need expression. They don’t actually want to stay buried. But they are so scary, heinous, and horrible that you don’t want to own up to them. So, instead, you take the unforgivable parts of yourself and project them onto other people. You call them a**holes, bitches, jerks, liars, and—even worse—murderers and terrorists.
You take what is unforgivable in you, deny it in yourself, and project it out into the world. It’s a clumsy and transparent way of protecting your fragile story. You feel a little better because it’s not you; it’s them. Those bastards! They’re guilty, not me! This is called projection.
Everyone you condemn in this world is giving you the opportunity to grow spiritually. A**holes give you a golden opportunity to suddenly see what you could not.
The a**hole is holding a mirror
Projection will never end, and we will never find peace, until we look inside. While we try to make a**holes guilty instead of ourselves, we are not escaping guilt. We are nurturing it within us. By looking out and blaming others for our hidden guilt, we distort our vision. Blaming makes us blind, so we unwittingly keep it safe. We continue to look out at the meaningless and color it in with our own of fear and guilt.
Our perception of the world is not a “fact” but a distorted mirror. It reflects back at us our scary personalized story. In a wonderful way, “a**holes” show us the part we have buried—the hidden part.
The g-word: the intention for self-sabotage
In spiritual circles they talk about “the power of intention.” You may think you have a nice intention for peace and love and hippy-dom for all. But don’t forget that guilt is an intention too. You may think you’re safe from guilt, but if you’re in the habit of noticing the a**holes in your life, you’re really just protecting the guilt within you. And guilt is an urgent intention. You’ve probably loaded guilt with a lot more power than you load into your nice intentions.
Guilt is the intention to be punished. This is primal. Pause and think about that a moment. The guilty ask for punishment. Don’t you in some insane way welcome some form of punishment—whether in the form of slight inconvenience or full-on trauma in your life—when you feel guilty? Guilt is a prayer for punishment!
The prayer of guilt is the source of all self-sabotage. If you have a**holes in your life, and you don’t look within, your prayer will be answered. Something will go wrong. (And you think your prayers are never answered!)
Back in the aisle four: your spiritual frontier
Every time you feel resistance to a person, thing, or circumstance, you have an opportunity to clear guilt from your life.
To enter your spiritual journey, ask yourself these two questions:
1. What exactly do I hate about this jerk? What exactly did he ever do or say that I find unforgivable?
2. Have I ever, EVER, done, said, or thought about doing, that same thing?
If you want truth, search with your whole heart. You may notice a tendency to gloss over, to be “right.” This is delusion.
Be patient. It’s in there. Maybe you’ve never actually done that thing—but, have you thought about doing it? Have you been tempted to do it with enough venom that you needed to bury the impulse? I suggest, yes. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be projecting it. If you’re bothered by a person, if there is an a**hole in your life, you’ve buried something inside you.
Have you ever had a murderous thought? And now, what petty crime is this a**hole guilty of? Why else would it bother you, if it weren’t unforgivable to you and in you?
Awaken by a**hole
Once you see the a**hole in yourself, you can forgive yourself. You have just expanded your ability to love. You just cleared away an intention for punishment, for failure. And you removed a major obstruction to your own happiness.
You’ll know it worked if this a**hole doesn’t feel like one to you anymore. You’ll feel clear. He will never look like an a**hole to you again. He may have surface quirks, yes, but you won’t be afraid of him anymore. That shows you that you forgave yourself. In truth, he was your guru. You might even quietly appreciate that about him. (This does not mean that you need to continue a relationship with him.) And now, you have one less person in your life that gets you hung up, stuck, and anxious.
If you persisted in looking into yourself this way every time you felt anxious or hung up about anything, you would eventually clear away all the a**holes, all the anxiety, and all the guilt in your life. You would be surrounded by friends everywhere. And all you had to do was clean out yourself by forgiving yourself. The people out there had nothing to to with it, ever.
If you’re lucky, really lucky, maybe someday you can be an a**hole for someone else!